Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What we want/don't want to see in Bucs-Vikings game

The Bucs are on national television tonight, and that's something you don't see very often.

But what will we see? What will the country see?

Will we see confident QB Josh Freeman or the uncertain one? Will we see Bucs coach Greg Schiano barking at people or calling for his kneel-down play? Will we see the Bucs that are good, bad or ugly?

Here's what we would like to see — and while we're at it, not see — in the Vikings game.

We do want to see …

Josh Freeman playing pitch and catch up and down the field.

In their first three games, the Bucs appeared to have Freeman's throwing arm tied down. He attempted 80 passes and threw for 381 yards, with four touchdowns and three interceptions.

Then the Bucs opened things up and allowed Freeman to move around a bit and take more and longer shots down the field. The result? In the past three games, Freeman has thrown 107 times for 1,047 yards, with seven touchdowns and one pick.

Freeman threw for more yards Sunday vs. the Saints (420) than in the first three games combined. We hope the Bucs will keep dialing up the passing plays.

We don't want to see …

LeGarrette Blount anywhere near a first-and-goal situation.

Actually, let's just go ahead and hide Blount's helmet when the Bucs are in any short-yardage situation.

On first and goal at the Saints' 1 Sunday, three Blount runs netted less than zero and proved that despite his 247-pound frame, he is not a short-yardage back. It took coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan three plays to realize what most Bucs followers have known for a year and a half.

Now, if Schiano and Sullivan insist on pounding Blount again tonight, they'll either be the sneakiest, shrewdest coaches in the business or the most stubborn.

We do want to see …

the ball thrown to Dallas Clark.

The Bucs found out Sunday how valuable the veteran tight end can be. In the first five games, Clark, above, was targeted 14 times. He was ignored completely against Kansas City and seemed invisible for much of Sunday's game against the Saints.

Then in the fourth quarter Sunday, it's as if the Bucs suddenly realized Clark was on the team. They threw to him six times. One pass was incomplete. One resulted in a New Orleans penalty, so that was a plus-play. Clark ended up catching four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.

We don't want to see …

any goofy formations or needless shenanigans on kneel-down plays or punt blocks or field-goal rushes.

Just line up and play the game like everybody else, okay?

No more tricks to try to cause false starts. No more harebrained schemes to cause fumbles. No more needless acts that do nothing except get the officials' attention.

Play offense. Play defense. Play special teams. Go get some water and do it again.

We don't want to see …

a three-man pass rush.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Sunday must have thought he had died and gone to passing heaven. That's where you can drop back to pass, have all the time in the world, decide which open receiver you want to throw to and you never, ever have to worry about getting sacked, pushed, smacked, bumped or even breathed on.

Brees threw for more than 300 yards in the first half, and you got the feeling the Bucs' game plan was to hope Brees' arm would become too sore to throw in the second half.

Facing a young quarterback tonight in Christian Ponder, you would hope the Bucs' plan is to bring a little more heat.

We do want to see …

a couple of sacks, at least.

A lack of sacks has been a problem for the Bucs over the past several seasons. Two years ago they had 26 sacks, and last season that number dropped to a league-low 23.

After sacking Carolina's Cam Newton three times in the season opener, you had to be optimistic that the Bucs finally had found a pass rush. But since then, they have had five sacks in five games. They are on pace for 21, which would be the NFL's lowest season total in three years and the lowest Bucs total since 1994.

You know things are bad when you're pinning your hopes on the return of a second-year player (Da'Quan Bowers) who is coming off a torn Achilles and has 11/2 career sacks.

And finally, we don't want to see …

Bucs coach Greg Schiano screaming at officials.

Or players. While we're at it, we don't want to see opposing coaches screaming at Schiano. Or his players. If Schiano isn't screaming at anyone and no one is yelling at him, chances are the Bucs are having a decent night.

Which is something we'd all like to see.

Tom Jones can be heard from 6-9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620 and reached at (727) 893-8544 or [email protected]

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